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911 will accept texts in 2018

LISBON –The ability to text 911 calls and send videos will likely arrive sometime in 2018.

Brian Rutledge, county 911 deputy director, reported at Thursday’s 911 advisory board meeting they will soon begin asking the local cellphone carriers to make the necessary changes so customers can make emergency calls via texting if necessary and other means.

“It’s a lengthy process to get there, and we’re hoping after the first of the year to get started,” he said.

The county recently upgraded to Next Generation 911, which is capable of accepting text messages, photographs and videos from cellphones and other internet-based devices. NG911 became operational in late September, but the new system cannot accept text messages and such until two things occur. First, AT&T has to make the necessary changes at its call routing center in Akron, and that request has yet to be made. All 911 calls in the county are routed through the AT&T facility.

Secondly, the cellphone carriers have to be asked to make the changes needed so 911 text messages and photos can be sent by their customers.

County 911 Director Peggy Clark said after the meeting they decided to delay taking action until 2018 because the dispatchers at the five 911 answering centers in the county have spent most of the year undergoing 72 hours of training to become emergency medical dispatchers capable of providing assistance to callers with medical emergencies, which is a new state requirement.

“We just didn’t want to overwhelm the dispatchers all at once” by making them learn how to accept 911 text messages and video, too, Clark said.

Meanwhile, the new system is quicker, generates more information for dispatchers and does a better job of pinpointing calls, she said.

In other business at the meeting, the committee authorized Clark to proceed with purchasing a new fire suppression system for the equipment room that houses all of the 911 equipment. Officials are worried thousands of dollars in equipment would be ruined should the current sprinkler system accidentally activate. The new nitrogen system will extinguish fires by removing oxygen from the room.

The cost is $23,999 and the supplier/installer is Firefighter Sales & Services of Warrendale, Pa.

“It’s something we’re going to have to do,” said committee member Jeremiah Cole.

Finally, county Commissioner Tim Weigle, who serves as committee chairman, said all of the new state 911 mandates means they will have to revise the county’s plan and this will require the eventual approval of communities representing at least 60 percent of the population.

tgiambroni@mojonews.com

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